For months, I’ve had a dream. It comes to me when I’m sandwiched at the back of an ACTION bus on my way into TheCanberra Times Assembly office of a morning.
I close my eyes, and instead of meandering through the rat-runs of the inner north or trundling in traffic, I’m gliding down Northbourne Avenue, past all the clogged cars, straight into the centre of the city.
Which is why Friday was my best commute into work yet. After suffering through years of detours and road closures, watching the trees get chopped down and replanted, the rails go in and the wires go up, I finally got to take the light rail into the city.
I live well over a kilometre away from light rail so I really didn’t see myself ditching the bus that stops right out the front of my house in favour of the tram too often, despite my daydreams.
But nevertheless I strapped my walking shoes and backpack on, and with the excitement of a kid on the first day of school, headed down to the Dickson Interchange.
Less than 15 minutes later I was getting kitted out in high vis and a helmet ready to get on.
(That’s not something ordinary passengers will have to deal with, we had to gear up as it’s still in the testing phase).
Trams seemed to come and go quite regularly even though they’re not yet working to their operational timetable. With one expected every six minutes during peak times though you won’t have to wait very long to get on board.
There are “platform validators” at every station where you need to tap your MyWay card before getting onto the light rail.
I’m told if you’re catching a bus to get to a light rail station, you need to tap off the bus and tap onto light rail. It won’t charge you twice as you have a 90-minute transfer window from the time you first tap on.
The inside of the tram feels huge, probably because it is the emptiest I will ever see it at this hour. The air conditioning is glorious, the seats are spacious and the windows are huge. And yes, it has that new tram smell.
I blink and we’re at our first station. Seriously, it felt that fast. But the ride is also really smooth and quiet so it feels like you’re hardly moving at all.
Already, we’re at the Elouera Street station. Then the Alinga Street terminal. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten from Dickson to Civic so quickly.
One of my fellow journos tells us she actually got a bit motion sick on the trip, but thankfully didn't become the first person to chunder on light rail. What a milestone that would have been.
When we’re bundled off the tram, I’m worried one of the doors is going to squish me but I’m assured they have automatic sensors so that can’t happen.
The driver has no control over the doors though, so when you want to get off you have to press a button to release the door yourself.
Walking from the station to work, I can't believe it's over so fast. I've been waiting so long for this. In fact the part that feels the longest about the whole trip is waiting for the green man at the traffic lights to cross the road.
Thankfully the rest of Canberra will not have to wait much longer either. Light rail is expected to start running on April 20, with free trips for all on the day.
You can even enter a ballot for a special preview trip on April 18, with 150 double passes up for grabs.
So the $939 million question is will Canberrans actually use this service?
As someone who consciously chooses to use public transport but misses buses with alarming regularity, I can definitely see myself walking that extra bit further in order to know there's a light rail vehicle coming along soon.
I recognise not everyone can do that, especially if you're not as mobile as I am or if your personal circumstances aren't as flexible.
I also know how painful the traffic light changes associated with light rail have made travelling anywhere along the corridor if you're in a car or bus.
But if you're open to trying something new, I have a feeling you will love it as much as I did.